By Jasen Sokol
The SCWAMP method of analysis can be a useful tool in the analysis of media. According to Grinner (2004), SCWAMP analysis is an intersectional framework, meaning that the “ideological positions [straight, Christian, White, able-bodied, male, and property holding] are interconnected and relational” (200). Grinner also noted that the relationships “are shaped and affected by the society in which they are embedded” (200). The Miller Lite “Men of the Square Table” ads are a good candidate for such an analysis as they are debates about “Man Law,” or rules that men should follow in order to be proper men. The debates take place inside of a glass cage located in what appears to be an empty warehouse. Aired in 2006 and 2007, these ads are clearly geared toward men and perpetuate the idea that straight, White, Christian, able-bodied, male, and property-owning people are the dominant force in society.
The Men of the Square Table are considered to be highly masculine celebrities. Some of these men include retired Pittsburgh Steeler Jerome Bettis, actor Eddie Griffin, professional rodeo cowboy Ty Murray, and professional wrestler Triple H. All of these men are straight. In addition, they tend to frown upon things seen as feminine. For example, the “Double Man Law” states that it is not acceptable to leave a game early to beat traffic, nor is it acceptable to bake anything on game day. Clearly, the feminine is devalued. In many cases, men frowning upon acts that are seen as feminine can be viewed as homophobic. One such instance involves a debate about whether or not it is acceptable to put a lime in one’s beer. The conclusion reached by the Men of the Square Table was that one should not “fruit the beer.” (Man Law, 2007). Since fruit is a slang term for a gay person, this was a veiled jab at the LGBT community.
All of the Man Laws discussed by the Men of the Square Table are seen as universal, so no discussion of religion takes place during the discussion of man laws. This makes sense because the man laws are actually promotions for Miller Lite beer. It would be unwise of Miller to try to portray man law as being restricted to one religion, or portray a religion as being in violation of man law, because it could lead to a backlash by that religious group. However, one could argue that men writing laws into a book does have religious overtones. Just as the Man Laws were written into a book that all men are expected to follow, the Bible was written by men and all Christians are expected to follow its teachings.
Although there are minority members of the Square Table, they seem to take ancilliary roles. The White characters take both of the lead roles in the commercials. Burt Reynolds is usually the moderator of the group, making the final proposal of man law to be written into the book of man laws by the scribe, an elderly white man. In addition, the Black characters argue strongly against the man laws more frequently than the White characters. An example of this can be seen in Jerome Bettis, who believes that it is okay to put a finger in a friend’s beer while carrying it from the bar, give high fives, and hit the top of a beer bottle with another bottle so that it overflows. Another example is a man of Hispanic descent who believes that it is acceptable to give high fives and to “fruit the beer” by putting a lime wedge in it. All of these actions end up either being in violation of man law or, in the case of the high five, exempt because there is no suitable replacement. This shows that the White Men of the Square Table are the dominant forces at the table.
Many of the Men of the Square Table are athletes or are involved with some athletic activity. The only person at the table who could be considered not able-bodied is Aron Ralston, who had to cut off his own arm in the desert when a boulder fell on it. However, the act of cutting off one’s arm is considered manly. The most visible example of being able-bodied is Triple H, who airs his disagreements with man law by asking if he will no longer be able to rip his shirt off and then actually ripping his shirt off.
Clearly, the man laws are geared towards men. They involve things that are considered manly, such as sports, drinking beer, giving high fives, and crushing beer cans on one’s forehead. However, light beer is usually seen as a feminine product. By crafting a campaign that is geared toward men, Miller is trying to portray light beer as a masculine product. This has been a growing trend lately, as light beers are now frequently seen in association with sports and rock music.
Despite the fact that most of the Men of the Square Table are rich and famous, they are not portrayed as such in the commercials. Instead, they are seen as working-class average Jjoes. This can be seen through their casual dress and the use of men such as Ty Murray and Jimmy Johnson who have a southern accent. The one exception to this is Burt Reynolds, who wears a suit and tie and speaks in a calm, professional manner. Reynold’s affluent appearance combined with his status as the leader of the Square Table shows the relationship between the have and the have nots in our society.
The Miller Lite Men of the Square Table commercials are clearly geared toward men and perpetuate the concept that straight, Christian, White, able-bodied, male, and property-owning people are the dominant group in our society.
Grinner, L. A. (2004). Hip Hop Sees No Color: An exploration of privilege and power in Save the Last Dance. In R. Lind (Ed.),Race/Gender/Media (, pp. 199-205). Boston: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.
Man Law. (2004, January 14). Retrieved November 25, 2009, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8RLCD-PpWqU
About BMC 277: Media and Diversity
This course asks students to critically examine the role of the media in facilitating and challenging the social constructions of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation in U.S. culture.